LONDON, May 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
More than half of Scots would like Britain to have a new nuclear weapons system when Trident is decommissioned, a new poll by Lord Ashcroft has found. Only one third of Scots want the UK to give up nuclear weapons completely.
Lord Ashcroft's poll calls into question the findings of survey commissioned earlier this year for CND, which claimed to find that 60% of Scots were against replacing Trident. However, as Lord Ashcroft says in his commentary on the results, the CND survey question quoted a misleading figure for the estimated cost of Trident, and failed to mention that the current system was coming to the end of its useful life.
The findings of Lord Ashcroft's poll of 1,236 adults in Scotland, conducted between 29 April and 2 May, include:
- 51% of Scots think Trident should be replaced when it comes to the end of its useful life (20% with an equally powerful system, 31% with a less powerful but cheaper system).
- 43% think the UK's nuclear weapons should continue to be based in Scotland, with 39% against and 18% saying "don't know" (though 68% of pro-independence respondents were against keeping UK nuclear weapons in Scotland).
- Only half of Scots thought Britain's nuclear weapons should cease to be based in Scotland if Scotland became independent. 35% would be happy for the UK to lease the Faslane base, with 15% undecided.
- While 22% of Scots think Britain needs nuclear weapons less than it did during the Cold War, 29% think the country needs them just as much today and 10% think we need them more. Only a quarter think Britain did not need nuclear weapons during the Cold War or today.
Lord Ashcroft's commentary on the poll, published on Conservative Home on Friday, is as follows:
CND ARE NOT THE BEST PEOPLE TO ASK WHAT SCOTS THINK OF TRIDENT
As I never tire of pointing out, it is always worth looking twice at any survey that seems to show that the public support the agenda of whoever commissioned it. Perhaps not at all surprisingly, a recent poll about nuclear weapons conducted in Scotland for CND is a case in point.
The poll, carried out in February, found 60 per cent of Scots saying they opposed "the UK Government buying a new nuclear weapons system to replace Trident", with only 14 per cent in support. Quite a margin, which is at least partly explained by the preamble to the question, which was as follows: "The UK Government plans to replace the existing Trident nuclear weapons with a new system, at a cost of £65 billion".
The main problem with this question is not the use of "UK Government", which is at least factual even if it was intended to serve as a kind of dog whistle to independence-minded respondents. And since for most people one multi-billion pound number sounds much like another, nor is the stated cost (even though it is something in the region of three times the true replacement figure: £65 billion includes the estimated running costs for thirty years, though CND evidently thought that pointing this out would complicate things too much).
Most importantly, CND omitted to mention (perhaps they thought it would have made the question too long) that the government plans to replace Trident because it is coming to the end of its useful life. As it was, the question allowed those polled to assume the government wanted to spend billions on new nukes just for the hell of it. Looked at in that light, the results are hardly remarkable. Even so, the numbers served CND's purpose, and were duly seized upon by parts of the Scottish press, and the SNP, which declared the issue a huge opportunity for the independence campaign.
As we know from their attempt to rig the referendum question, the SNP has form on this sort of thing. Trying to show that people think what you want them to think is not the same thing as trying to find out what they really do think. I am more interested in the latter - so last week I asked what people in Scotland really do think about Trident.
Told that the Trident system is coming to the end of its useful life and will soon have to be scrapped or replaced, only one third of Scots said the UK should give up nuclear weapons completely. More than half thought Trident should be replaced, either with an equally powerful system (20 per cent) or a cheaper but less powerful system (31 per cent). Asking a separate sample the same question but adding that the cost of replacing Trident would be £20 to £25 billion made no significant difference).
Scots were slightly more likely to think Britain's nuclear weapons should continue to be based in Scotland (43 per cent) than that they should not (39 per cent), though opinion differed sharply between pro- and anti-independence respondents. In the event of Scotland becoming independent, only half of Scots thought Britain's nuclear weapons should cease to be based at Faslane; 35 per cent would be happy to see the UK lease the naval base, with 15 per cent undecided. Again, those in favour of independence opposed the idea by more than two to one.
Overall, only a quarter of Scots thought Britain did not need nuclear weapons during the Cold War and does not need them today. More than a fifth said the need is lower than during the Cold War, while for nearly two fifths Britain needs nuclear weapons just as much as before (29 per cent) or even more (10 per cent): hardly a picture of overwhelming opposition.
It's a pity CND had no room for such questions on its survey. As ever, I am happy to help.
Notes to Editors
- For Lord Ashcroft's poll 1,236 adults in Scotland were interviewed online between 29 April and 2 May 2013. Results have been weighted to be representative of all adults in Scotland. Full data tables will be available at LordAshcroftPolls.com on Friday.
- For the CND poll, 1,001 adults in Scotland were interviewed face to face between 20 and 28 February 2013.
- Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, author and philanthropist. He is founder and Chairman of the Board of Crimestoppers, a member of the Board of the Imperial War Museum and a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum Foundation, Chairman of the Trustees of Ashcroft Technology Academy, Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University and Treasurer of the International Democrat Union. From 2005 to 2010 he was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.
- His political books and research papers include Smell The Coffee (2005), Minority Verdict (2010), Project Blueprint (2011 & 2012), The Leadership Factor (2011), Degrees of Separation (2012), The Armed Forces & Society (2012), Blue Collar Tories (2012), Project Red Alert (2012), They're Thinking What We're Thinking: Understanding The UKIP Temptation (2012), and What Are The Liberal Democrats For? (2013).
- Visit LordAshcroftPolls.com for full details of Lord Ashcroft's polling and to sign up for news alerts. You can also follow him on Twitter: @LordAshcroft.